Devante Jones’ family was distraught, even baffled, to learn this week that the 22-year-old Baltimore man was killed while allegedly attempting to rob five men, including an off-duty school police officer and a retired corrections officer.
Jones’ grandmother Earline Gardner was constantly being reminded by family members to eat Tuesday, and his aunt Nikki James tearfully remembered her nephew as a sweet child who family members affectionately called “Tay Tay." Jones’ 2-year-old daughter has repeatedly asked where her daddy is.
The grief from Jones’ death has been overwhelming, the women said, and complicated by inconsistent or incomplete information from Baltimore Police Department.
According to a police report released Monday, Jones attempted to rob a group of five men at gunpoint near Guilford Avenue and East 23rd Street Saturday. Two of the men — off-duty Baltimore school police officer Harvey Battle and retired corrections officer Michael Ross — pulled out their own firearms when Jones pointed a handgun at them, police said.
Ross, who has a Maryland handgun permit, fired his weapon about nine to 10 times, hitting Jones “approximately twice,” according to the report. Jones ran and collapsed in a nearby yard, where a medic treated him before sending him to Johns Hopkins Hospital for treatment of a gunshot wound to the upper chest. He later died from the injury.
Before being taken to the hospital, Jones admitted to trying to rob the men, police said. “They shot me as I tried to rob them,” he said, according to the police report. Police declined this week to release the body camera footage worn by responding officers, citing the ongoing investigation.
“It appears to be a justified shooting, but obviously the state’s attorney’s office will make that determination,” Baltimore Police spokesman Matt Jablow said Monday.
Gardner and James say police’s interactions with the family have been confusing. At times, they said they were told Jones was attempting to rob only two men, not five. And the women say police have video footage from that night, but the family has not been permitted to view it.
The Baltimore Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. The Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s office said it could not comment on an open and pending investigation.
Sgt. Clyde Boatwright, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, which represents school police officers, said in a statement this week the case is "proof that violent crime is out of control in the City of Baltimore.”
“Confronted with an immediate threat to his life, our officer relied on his training and took the appropriate action," Boatwright said.
Jones’ family said they need answers from police.
“We just want to know the truth,” James said. “Their stories have been changed up too many times.”
Gardner said that before her grandson’s death, the 22-year-old appeared to be getting his life back on track from several brushes with the law. Jones was on probation after a fourth-degree burglary conviction June 13, according to Maryland court records.
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According to Maryland court records, Devante Jones had been charged with using a gun during an armed robbery before. In 2015 Jones was charged with armed robbery, first-degree assault and using a weapon in a crime of violence. He pleaded guilty to robbery and was placed on probation, while the other charges were closed on the condition that he stayed out of trouble while on probation.
“He wasn’t perfect, I’ll say that," Gardner said. “If he was wrong, I can understand that, but tell me the truth.”
Jones had been visiting a resource center for young fathers, was working to earn his GED and holding down two jobs with a trash hauler and laundromat, Gardner said. More confusing still, the grandmother said Jones brought home a paycheck the day before he allegedly tried to rob the group of men.
Family members say Jones’ body has not yet been returned to them, but they’re not in a rush to bury their loved one. The grief is still so raw, Gardner said.
Meanwhile, Jones’ daughter keeps asking Gardner “where my daddy at" she said.
“How do you tell a 2-year-old her father’s not coming back?”
Baltimore Sun reporters Colin Campbell and Jessica Anderson contributed to this article.